New Orleans is known for Mardi Gras and Bourbon Street, but there is so much more to this charming southern city. From historic hotels, to trendy restaurants, and hole-in-the-wall bookstores, this city has much more to offer than red punch drinks and all-night parties. This was our second trip to New Orleans. We stayed in the downtown area, although we couldn’t help but revisit some of our favorites in the French Quarter.
There are many different choices when it comes to food. Here’s what we tried:
Herbsaint: This restaurant boasts many foodie awards since its debut back in 2000, including Gourmet Magazine’s Top 50 Restaurants in America. Located on Charles Street, Herbsaint presents French-Southern cuisine in a contemporary way using many local ingredients. I typically don’t recommend specific dishes, but you will be disappointed if you don’t order the ceviche as an appetizer.
Luke: Luke was recommended to us by friends (who actually also recommended Herbsaint; at which point my husband started making our “recommend” list so as not to be “takers” but also “givers”… a true Type A at work ;-). We were not disappointed. This restaurant runs a smooth operation with a friendly, professional, and attentive staff. And the food… it’s good, as in really good, as in skip breakfast and just go straight to lunch and dinner good. One can certainly see why John Besh’s restaurant, Luke, has received so many accolades from such notable sources Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, and The Times Picayune. As the website describes, the food is an “homage to the grand old Franco-German brasseries that once reigned in New Orleans.” If you don’t think you will make it to New Orleans in the near future, you could always try one of his recipes from the comfort of your own home with this cookbook.
CellarDoor: Before going to Herbsaint or Luke, or really anywhere, stop in for a classic cocktail at CellarDoor. You may even decide to stick around for some contemporary southern food, as we did on our second trip there in 3 days; it was delicious! The atmosphere feels rustic, fancy, and comfortable all at once. The service is wonderful and there is a great happy hour. CellarDoor is located in the Swoop-Duggins House, which may be the oldest remaining house in downtown New Orleans. And a history it has… including being owned by Gertrude Strein’s protege, Christopher Banks, at which time, it was an art-themed restaurant. Swoop-Duggins was also one of New Orleans’ longest running brothels. And, as the website assures… “it most certainly does have ghosts.” What is the timeline on a black cat walking across your pathway? Because that happened in the alleyway to the restaurant… during Halloween week… but, so far, so good…fingers crossed, knock on wood, etc. etc.
The Carousel Bar & Lounge: Speaking of cocktails and spirits, you can’t come to New Orleans and the French Quarter without stopping in for a drink at The Carousel Bar & Lounge in the historic Hotel Monteleone. (If you missed my post about the time we stayed there and wandered around singing Lorde’s Royals song, click here.). The bar, decorated as a merry-go-round, turns on 2,000 steel rollers. Although we attempted at least twice to get a seat at the 25-seat bar, we have not been successful. It seems that when people get a seat, they tend to stay awhile. Don’t be dismayed, though, you can still take in the rich atmosphere and admire the incredible artwork from the stationary bar or the nicely appointed lounge area.
Kingfish: If you are looking for a place in the the French Quarter to enjoy bite for either lunch or dinner, Kingfish is an excellent option. The food is amazing! We stopped in for dinner three years ago, and, apparently, it has become even better since then, winning several awards, including Trip Advisor’s Certificate of Excellence in both 2016 and 2017 as well as Best of New Orleans from Trip Expert and Open Table’s Winner for Diner’s Choice 2016. The Executive Chef has experience in NYC, Chicago and NOLA. Apparently, after experiencing a Chicago winter, he headed south (I can relate… except I moved farther north?!?!).
Cafe DuMonde: What would a trip to NOLA be without beignets? This “original French Market coffee stand since 1862” serves up the most delectable beignets, which are French-style donuts doused in powdered sugar, as well as cafe au lait. Other menu items include black coffee, white and chocolate milk, and orange juice. 1988 was a big year for the cafe as iced coffee and soft drinks were added to the menu.
Drip Affogato Bar: Stop in for a quick cup or coffee or a chai. The atmosphere is delightful and the service friendly. It is a great place to gather as a group or to sit solo to sip. The decor is just my style– bright, airy, and not a single ounce of clutter (#goals). In fact, I’ve become a bit obsessed with fridges lately (more on this later) and the pink Igloo fridge just completes the space.
Whew- that was a lot of eating! For someone who survived college and grad school on popcorn and Diet Coke, I’ve come a long way. My husband and I usually judge a restaurant more on its design and atmosphere. (The food typically falls into the categories of “good,” “it was okay” or “I didn’t like it). However, after this trip to New Orleans, I think that we are well on our way to determining favorite restaurants based on decor and food.
Before we left, I needed to take one last stroll through the French Quarter to purchase some gifts for the kids, who were less than thrilled about being left home yet another time this fall (although once they started getting spoiled by their grandparents, getting left behind seemed like a pretty good deal). Nola Kids was the perfect place to pick up our guilt gifts which included some stuffed alligators and an adorable book for them. It’s where I bought their gifts 3 years ago and is definitely a re-visit kind of store. The selection is a nice mix of toys, clothes, books, and NOLA-specific items (and, yes, there is even Unicorn Snot for the unicorn lovers in your lives).
I also stopped in Faulkner House Books (another re-visit from 3 years ago). It is a delightfully small book store. I was immediately drawn to this book, and purchased it as a little gift for someone back home. Another book that I paged through and may yet purchase was Faulkner’s New Orleans Sketches. I wonder if his observations hold true today.
And, of course, we couldn’t leave without visiting the oldest cathedral in the United States, St. Louis Cathedral. We also took in as much of the street art and talented musicians as we could in this lively, historic, and delicious city.
What are your New Orleans recommendations? Any favorite stops or places to eat? I think next time we will try to eat in the Warehouse District and attempt to ride the street car to Magazine Street.
Even if NOLA isn’t in your immediate future, here is a pin to save for later.
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